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Data from the Robotic Industries Association shows that in a first for the industry, more robots were sold in North America to non-automotive users than automotive ones.
North American companies ordered 31,044 robotic units, valued at $1.572 billion in 2020.
Q4 that was the second-best quarter ever for North American robotic sales
In Q4, companies ordered 9,972 units valued at $479 million, a 63.6% increase over Q4 2019.
Industries with notable growth in year-over-year orders included Life sciences (69%), Food & Consumer Goods (59%), Plastics & Rubber (51%)
Automotive orders increased 39% in 2020.
Robot manufacturers are reporting that end-users are experiencing supply chain disruptions and workforce resource shortages that are leading to advancement in their automation strategies and ultimately more robots being used in new fields.
“In 2020, we saw two trends in particular that propelled growth in non-automotive orders for robotics technology,” said John Bubnikovich, Chief Regional Officer – North America, KUKA Robotics. “First, the automation competence level in general industry has grown, and that matured into greater demand for the technology. Second, consumer behavior shifted significantly and the expectations created by this shift were tough to satisfy without automation.”
“We have seen a substantial increase in activity in non-automotive sectors, as customers focus on making their production lines more flexible and better able to efficiently achieve high mix, lower volume production in response to constantly evolving customer demands,” says Mark Joppru, Vice President – Consumer Segment & Service Robotics, US ABB Robotics and Machine Automation. “In food applications, for example, where robots were traditionally used to automate simpler processes like case loading, they are increasingly being commissioned for higher value processes, like directly preparing food, resulting in improvements to food safety and hygiene. While these trends have existed for several years, COVID has changed perceptions and priorities for customers, accelerating the adoption of robotic automation.”
“With the changes in people’s personal buying behavior caused by COVID, robots have been utilized in record numbers to allow for the fulfillment of orders in the e-commerce space while allowing for correct social distancing practices,” said Dean Elkins, Segment Leader – Handling, Yaskawa Motoman. “In addition, robots largely aided in the production of personal protection and testing equipment and the medical devices needed to keep our society healthy and safe.”